Monday, August 3, 2020

These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker - REVIEWED



ABOUT THE BOOK:
Once held captive and tortured on a mysterious mountain, Dan was lucky to have made it out alive. But freedom comes at a cost. Left with little memory of the horrific ordeal, Dan can recall one thing--his escape meant leaving his brother behind.

With each day that passes, Dan waits with the other survivors in hope of his brother's escape. But just as long-forgotten memories start rising to the surface, the sudden appearance of a wounded woman throws everything into question. As Dan struggles to know who to trust, he is caught once again in a paralyzing moral dilemma:

How far will he go to save the people he loves?    

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Shawn Smucker is the award-winning author of Light from Distant Stars, the young adult novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, and the memoir Once We Were Strangers. He lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. You can find him online at www.shawnsmucker.com.

My Thoughts:
"It's the kind of place you have to leave on your own.  Everyone who has ever left has battled their way out.  In this place, our guilt consumes us."  p. 203

After reading this book, I've had to sit with its truth for a few days before writing my review.  I'll be honest, when I began reading, I stayed a bit confused by the story line.  I was confused about the location and the circumstances in which I found the characters living.  So, I have to say from the very beginning, stick with this story!!  Everything will become clear as you read.  As you take steps toward understanding, things will become clearer and clearer.  It is SO WORTH the journey!

I know, if you've been reading my blog anytime at all, you know I always intersect with a story at a God appointed moment in my life.  This story intersects my life in a season of growth and change.  Those two words sound amazing, no?  However, they are, in reality uncomfortably hard.  The characters in this story are in that same place, but they don't exactly realize it.  Truth be told, the journey to understand that truth about their lives is a bit circuitous. This is not an action packed thriller.  Rather, this is a story that is personal, individual and challenges us as such to learn to be an honest contributor to the groups we find ourselves a part of....family, church, work, friends.

I encourage everyone to take the time to savor this book. It is very different from most fiction I've read lately. The characters are very believable, and you will like some more than others.  This is an analogous tale, and, as such, needs to be read with an open mind.  Experience it. You will be so glad you did!!






Thursday, June 25, 2020

What Momma Left Behind by Cindy K. Sproles - REVIEW

About the Book:
In the face of overwhelming obstacles, she'll need courage, grit, and a tender heart

Worie Dressar is seventeen years old when influenza and typhoid ravage her Appalachian Mountain community in 1877, leaving behind a growing number of orphaned children with no way to care for themselves. Worie's mother has been secretly feeding several of these little ones on Sourwood Mountain. But when tragedy strikes, Worie is left to figure out why and how she was caring for them.


Plagued with two good-for-nothing brothers--one greedy and the other a drunkard--Worie must fight to save her home and the children now in her begrudging care. Along the way, she discovers the beauty of unconditional love and the power of forgiveness as she cares for all of Momma's children.

About the Author:
Cindy K. Sproles is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries. An author, storyteller, and popular speaker, Cindy teaches at writers conferences across the country and directs the Asheville Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina. Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, Cindy has a BA in business and journalism and lives in the mountains of East Tennessee with her family.
My Thoughts:
"Truth can be hard to swaller, and right now I was chokin."  (p.212)
Worrie Dressar's simple life in a remote Appalachian Mountain community was not without its problems.  It turns out that the definition of family was a vast as the mountains themselves.  Worrie has to go through hell and back before that truth becomes known to her.  Her journey to that truth costs her more than she wants to pay, and she must decide, moment by moment, if it is worth the cost.
When I first picked up this novel, I assumed that it would address the ravages of typhoid in rural Appalachia.  Technically, it does, but not in a way I'd have ever dreamed!  Cindy Sproles takes the reader on a very delicate spiritual and emotional journey through the harshest physical, circumstantial circumstances imaginable!  She develops her characters in such a way, that, even though the circumstances are terrible, you are able to feel the impact of the choices Worrie is forced to make as the story unfolds.
There is a strength and wisdom in Worrie's actions that is beyond her years.  Yet, when it is most impactful, she is able to express her overwhelming emotions in a way that will twist your heart in two! Once I recognized what the true treasure was in the story, I found out that I'd misjudged that too.  Sproles carefully weaves depth and breadth into her characters and story line that makes every chapter feel like something new.  
I highly recommend this book!  You will come away satisfied, challenged, and examining your own heart. I think in light of the pandemic and racial unrest in our country right now, this story packs a greater emotional punch!  Enjoy this story!  Prepare your heart to be touched and changed!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Cross Shadow by Andrew Huff - REVIEW and GIVE AWAY!


About the Book:
All journalist Christine Lewis wants is the truth. All pastor John Cross wants is to avoid it.

Former CIA agent turned evangelical pastor John Cross is busy caring for the small community of believers he ministers to in Virginia. Journalist Christine Lewis is busy with the demand for her talents from top news agencies in New York City. Neither has any time left for their relationship, which began eight months before when they paired up to prevent the detonation of a chemical bomb in the nation's capital.

But when Christine hears that her stepbrother has been arrested for murder in Texas, they team up again to discover the truth about the crime. Untangling a web of conspiracy, the couple finds themselves in the center of another dangerous situation-and in trouble far deeper than they expected.


With an assassin on the loose, a trusted colleague acting as a double agent, and unreliable artificial intelligence connected to mercenaries who have Cross on their hit list, these two may not get out of the Lone Star State alive.

About the Author:
Huff spent ten years in local church ministry as a youth pastor and creative arts pastor before pursuing God’s calling into creative storytelling and media production as the product director at Igniter Media, a church media company (ignitermedia.com).

He is a two-time finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Genesis Contest for unpublished authors (2014, 2017) and also won the best screenplay award at the 2015 48 Hour Film Festival in Richmond, VA. A Cross to Kill and Cross Shadow in the Shepherd Suspense series are his first releases.

Huff holds a bachelor of science in religion degree from Liberty University and a master of arts in Christian education from Dallas Theological Seminary. He resides in Plano, TX, with his beautiful wife, Jae, and their two boys.


Learn more Andrew Huff and the Shepherd Suspense novels at www.andrewhuffbooks.com. He can also be found on Facebook (@huffwrites), Twitter (@andrewjohnhuff) and Instagram (@andyhuff).

My Thoughts:
"Come on. Let's get you cleaned up.  We've got a lot to talk about."  (p, 176)

Christine Lewis finds herself cleaning up a LOT more than any news reporter I've ever heard of!  If I were her, I'd pick a less dangerous profession!  John Cross, her boyfriend, possesses an every stranger combination of skill sets, and seems to be perfectly suited to her very aggressive and  dangerous reporting gigs!

This time, Christine's reporting takes a backseat, because she finds herself trying to save her step brother from being wrongfully charged with murder.  Her reporting skills, combined with John's endless protective and crafty intelligence gathering capabilities, prove to be an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.  As they uncover the depth and breadth of the people determined to profit off the lives of others - alive or dead - it takes every ounce of determination and faith they can muster to survive everything that comes their way.

All along the way, both Christine and John have their personal faith challenged in ways that cause them both heartache and joy.  Anyone brave enough to open this novel better hang on for the ride!  This is a tale that begins with a subtle uptick in danger, but by the end of the novel, the reader is breathless and in need of a good nap!  There are no end to the twists and turns in this plot line! As this is book two of the series, I am now anxious to go back and enjoy the first novel so I'll be ready for the next one!

This is a series that anyone who enjoys a great thrill ride will thoroughly enjoy! I highly recommend this trilogy!! I can't wait to see what happens next!

You can win your own copy of Cross Shadow!  Leave a message in the comments, and I will contact the winner next week!


Friday, May 22, 2020

Legends From My Mom's Closet by Sasha Olsen - REVIEWED!

About the Book:

Legends from Mom s Closet documents Sasha s summer, where she spends most of her time indoors because of stormy weather. Due to her boredom, she turns to learning about legendary people through books and research. She comes upon some incredible women, like Frida Kahlo, and delves into these legends lives which lead her to feel extremely inspired. She turns her inspiration into art by rummaging in her mom s closet for vintage pieces to dress up as the legends she learned about. Sometimes she faces little troubles, but she quickly overcomes them in a mission to spend a day in a legend s shoes and document it. Through this diary, readers will also learn the importance of vintage clothing and the need to prevent fast fashion. Legends from Mom s Closet is abundant with colorful photos and illustrations for other kids to truly get a feel of Sasha s imagination. She even shares little fun facts and a how-to for each icon.Experience the creativity a kid encounters when exploring what s right around them and let it inspire you too!

About the Author:
Sasha Olsen is a 10-year-old author, environmental activist, ballroom dancer, bookworm,
pianist, and enjoys anything artistic. She always finds new hobbies and things to do, which
usually ends up in her trying to juggle everything. She lives with her family in Bal Harbour,

Florida, where she also spearheads the conservation movement “I Want My Ocean Back.”
Legends From Mom’s Closet is her first book.

My Review:

“Cleopatra was awesome, but so am I and all the women I know!”  p. 37
“…do you think she ever got tired of being herself?”  p. 46 (Audrey Hepburn)
“Get inspired to learn more and be creative.  New people and new things surround you.  Read, read, read.”  p. 120

It is an exceptional 10-year-old who enjoys research and writing!  As a parent of adult children, I can honestly say, I’d love to meet her parents too!  However, I won’t distract a moment from this very extraordinary book!

This is far more than just a dress-up activity!  Sasha actually reads about every character she portrays and shares what she learns in a way that other readers her age will remain engaged.  Sasha chooses a diary format to tell her story.  Who on planet earth doesn’t love to read someone else’s diary?!  Seriously!  She begins by sharing the source of inspiration to choose the character, then goes on to share what she learned in the process of choosing the clothing and props.

At this point, the reader is totally engaged and ready to learn interesting and little known facts about the character.  This is a far more interesting way to learn than  doing an internet search!  She then shares her own artful interpretation of the character in a drawing – typically in crayon – and ends the chapter with hints and tips to recreate your own character!  All along the way, there are amazing photos of Sasha as her character.  At the end of the book, you learn that all of her props were found in her home or the building she lived in.  This kid doesn’t do anything to excess that would harm the world around her!

This was an unexpected and very pleasant discovery of a book!  I’ve always been drawn to children’s books, and am so honored to review this one!  I look forward to watching Sasha as she grows and follows what is certain to be a fascinating life path!  BRAVO!!

Learn more here!
  • Author's Facebook: LINK 
  • Author's Instagram: LINK
  • Author's Website: LINK
  • Amazon: LINK
  • B&N: LINK

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

An Interview with Sasha Olsen: Legend's from Mom's Closet

Sasha Olsen has accomplished more in her ten years of living than most people!  She has become an activist on behalf of the world's oceans, and has published her first book!

Legend's from Mom's Closet  showcases Sasha's limitless search for knowledge, born from a Summer trapped indoors by inclement weather.  Her love for reading and research will open many doors for her during her lifetime!  Enjoy this brief interview, and come back on Friday for my review of this very unique and fascinating exploration of women who have impacted history in meaningful ways!  Welcome, Sasha!

In your book, Legends from Mom’s Closet, you share tidbits about and dress up like
legendary women you read about during a rainy summer spent indoors. A lot of kids
your age would spend a rainy summer watching TV or playing video games. What
made you decide to start reading books about famous women?

Well, I actually love to read, especially biographies. I don’t usually spend a lot of time
using any devices. I didn’t specifically start reading books about famous women, but I
started looking around for books to learn more about legendary people. I just happened
to meet these iconic women through their amazing stories and spending a day in their
shoes!

What is the biggest lesson you learned from getting to know all of these female
legends?

I learned many lessons! Most of all though, I learned that women are super strong.
Women work very hard and can get through anything that might stand in their way of

achieving their goals. Women are so inspiring!

What inspired you to use your mom’s clothes and your grandmother’s vintage pieces
to recreate all of their iconic looks?

Actually, I just went into my mom’s closet and started trying on her shoes and dresses.
This was after I read about Frida Kahlo. So, I just got the idea to try and dress up as her! I
thought my mom might be really upset with me for playing with her things, but she
loved the idea. If the legend was wearing something like I really couldn’t figure out
where to get, I would call my grandma for advice. Most of the time, she had exactly

what I needed!

How did you decide which legends to include in Legends from Mom’s Closet?

I didn’t choose them before. I just started to read about people who I didn’t know much
about yet and it ended up being all women! After, I just decided to share them in this

book.

Your other passion is the environment. Tell us what you learned about vintage fashion
versus fast fashion.

When I was started my movement Iwantmyoceanback and this project, I was doing a lot
of research during that time. I wanted to know more about what are the biggest things
that pollute our oceans and cause problems for our planet. I found out like clothing is
one of the biggest ocean pollutants and some fabrics, like polyester, have plastic in
them so it breaks down and hurts our sea animals. After finding this out, I realized that
it’s very harmful to buy fast fashion because people just buy the clothes and throw them
away soon after. It inspired me to learn more about vintage and how we can buy
secondhand instead, and just reuse clothing!

Ultimately, what do you hope your readers take away from your book?

I hope readers learn how important it is to let your creativity run wild! I want other kids
to know that we can get inspired and have fun while also learning new things and
growing our knowledge. It’s also very important that we learn more about how fast
fashion affects our oceans and that we stop it! We need to win the war against fast
fashion to help save the planet.

Purchase your copy HERE!


Monday, April 20, 2020

Silent Shadows by Natalie Walters - REVIEWED


About the Book:
They're running from their pasts into an unknown future.
But first, they'll have to survive the present.

Nurse Pecca Gallegos moved to the tiny town of Walton, Georgia, to protect her son and escape the dangerous lifestyle that once defined her. When a series of strange circumstances evolves into threats, Pecca finds herself confiding in an unlikely ally--her stubborn patient.

Army veteran Colton Crawford is desperate to recover from the disorder that is ruining his life, and his instincts are on high alert when threats against his nurse and her son force him to take action. But Colton's involvement only ramps up the danger when he uncovers a family secret revealing that whoever is after Pecca is closer--and more deadly--than they realized.


Welcome back to Walton, Georgia, where everyone knows your name--but no one knows your secret.

About the Author:
Natalie Walters is the author of Living Lies and Deadly Deceit. A military wife of 22 years, she currently resides in Hawaii with her soldier husband and their three kids. She writes full-time and has been published in Proverbs 31 magazine and has blogged for Guideposts online. In addition to balancing life as a military spouse, mom, and writer, she loves connecting on social media, sharing her love of books, cooking, and traveling. Natalie comes from a long line of military and law enforcement veterans and is passionate about supporting them through volunteer work, races, and writing stories that affirm no one is defined by their past. Learn more at www.nataliewalterswriter.com.






My Thoughts:
Secrets are easy to keep - until they're not.  Pecca Gallegos and her son, Maceo have become an integral part of the community in Walton, Georgia.  Pecca's job as a physical therapist at the local veteran's rehab facility, Home for Heroes, provides the structure and security - and anonymity  - Pecca needs to raise her son.  When Army veteran, Colton Cawford, becomes her patient, Pecca discovers that keeping her feelings under wraps becomes an unexpected challenge as she gets to know her patient.  Her co-workers only seem to encourage the relationship as both Pecca and her son become an almost daily part of Colton's life.

Life takes a sudden u-turn when gun shots ring out of the shadows.  Those shots open the gate way to Pecca's past, and secrets come to light that ensure nothing but unknown circumstances and danger in what had become the safest place of her life.  As Pecca begins to navigate the task of both keeping her son safe and guarding her heart against growing feelings for Colton, Captain Crawford has to struggle to overcome the trauma lurking in his own past that keeps his mind and body hi-jacked by uncontrolled movement.

This story has multi-layered plot lines that will appeal to a broad range of readers.  There is romance, suspense, difficult emotions, trauma, and a multitude or surprises hidden along the way!  Truth grapples to come to the surface against a constant stream of efforts to protect people from being hurt both physically and emotionally.  The characters in this novel - even the minor characters - are believable and very likable.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time within the pages of this novel, and am very excited to recommend it to everyone!